House committee hears heated testimony on marriage equality, passes domestic partnerships

Video streaming by Ustream

(Audio begins at 20:00. Sen. Bruce Burns at 37:40. Rep. Lynn Hutchings at 01:11:15.)

By Gregory Nickerson
January 28, 2013

The House Corporations, Elections, and Political Subdivisions Committee today (Monday, January 28, 2013) heard testimony on two controversial bills related to marriage equality.

House Bill 169 — Marriage-definition would have defined marriage as a relationship between two “natural persons” rather than between one man and one woman. The measure failed with a vote of four in favor and five opposed.

House Bill 168 — Domestic partnerships-rights and responsibilities would legalize domestic partnerships between two people in Wyoming. That bill passed by a vote of 7 to 2.Picture 2

The audience was divided almost equally among those for and against the measure. Debate lasted nearly two hours. A cadre of nationwide Twitter followers commented on the debate using the #wyleg hashtag. Rep. Dan Zwonitzer (R-Cheyenne) used a mobile device to broadcast the testimony on USTREAM.

Rep. Lynn Hutchings (R-Cheyenne) spoke against the marriage definition bill, saying no comparison can be made between the sufferings of those seeking interracial marriage and those seeking same-sex marriage. “Please stop carpetbagging on our civil rights movement,” Hutchings said.

Hutchings is an African-American freshman legislator and past lobbyist for the Wyoming Family Coalition.

As Hutchings’ delivered her testimony she sat next to a stoic Rep. Cathy Connolly (R-Laramie), a bill sponsor and the only openly gay member of the Wyoming legislature. In House floor sessions the two sit at neighboring desks and interact in a collegial manner.

Sen. Bruce Burns (R-Sheridan) spoke in favor of domestic partnerships, saying HB 168 is not necessarily a gay rights bill, because it would allow any two people to live together in a legal contract, including siblings.

The debate represented the latest skirmish in an ongoing marriage equality battle between social libertarians and evangelical conservatives in Wyoming. Marriage equality advocates considered the committee’s passage of the domestic partnerships bill as a major victory.

House Bill 168 now faces three rounds of debate in the House. To become law it would need to repeat the process in the Senate and earn the Governor’s signature.

A stream of the full debate is available above.

— Gregory Nickerson is the government and policy reporter for WyoFile. He is based in Cheyenne during the 2013 legislative session. Contact him at greg@wyofile.com.
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Published on January 28, 2013

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